teddy

A rock climber works through a bolted route at the basalt cliffs called Teddy Bear Cove southeast of American Falls.

A few years ago, when I was a new Boy Scout, about 12 years old on one of my first campouts, I remember watching a Scout leader setting up some shiny, thin metal panels with a rack in the middle next to a small campfire.

“Convection oven,” he said cryptically. “Watch the magic.” The magic turned out to be fresh baked hot biscuits out in the middle of nowhere. We all fought over a few bites.

I heard those words again — convection oven — recently when I went rock climbing. On Saturday, I was climbing with a friend at a place called Teddy Bear Cove. It features tall, dark basalt walls with a sandy base a few miles southeast of American Falls Reservoir and near the Massacre Rocks climbing area. It’s popular with the ATV crowd and hikers and climbers. A few campers also pay visits.

It’s nearly impossible to climb there in the summer because of the heat. This time of year and in the spring, conditions can be just right. Except when the temperatures push higher than the mid 60s. At 65 degrees, you head for the shade.

When I tell fellow climbers who haven’t been, that the best temperatures are between 45 and 55 degrees, they give me a dubious look like I’m selling them a new brand of snake oil or the latest and greatest protein powder. Those who I’ve convinced to come along often come overdressed. They bring their puffy coats and long pants, usually regretting it later.

“It’s like a convection oven,” I tell them. “You’ll be chasing shade.”

Teddy Bear Cove is like the little brother to Massacre Rocks. It doesn’t have even a fourth of the routes of Massacre, but it makes up for it in other ways. It’s easy to get to, driving and hiking in.

Where we went, it took perhaps 2 minutes to hike to the wall. The drive was also less of a headache than the ever-changing maze of bumpy, “high-clearance only” jeep roads needed to find Massacre.

While spring and fall are prime times to visit some of the more deserty areas in eastern Idaho, it also pays to be a weather watcher. The weather can change dramatically this time of year — even hourly. I often check the Doppler radar for the area to see where the wet stuff is falling. Isn’t the internet great?

This weekend a group of climbers were to gather at Teddy Bear Cove to do some cleanup and some climbing. Having been there recently I can say there is some trash near the cliff base left behind by some dough heads who forgot what their mommas taught them about cleaning up after themselves.

So until we’re forced to drive to southern Utah for summery outdoor fun, the desert east of American Falls will do just fine.